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Girardi surprised, humbled by All-Star selection

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- If you were surprised that Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was named to this year's All-Star team, it turns out Girardi was probably just as shocked.

"To be honest with you, I never really would have thought I'd ever be an All-Star, to tell you the God's honest truth," Girardi said before the Rangers face the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. "I had some plans tentatively, but I didn't book anything. I honestly didn't think I was going to get picked. I knew there was some consideration, but I didn't want to book anything and lose my money. I'm glad I didn't and it worked out good."

Girardi will be joined by teammates Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik along with coach John Tortorella for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Lundqvist is among the League leaders in most goaltending stats while Gaborik's 23 goals have him in MVP talks.


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Tortorella has been the leader of the League's best team, but Girardi isn't exactly your prototypical All-Star defenseman.

The undrafted free agent leads the NHL in ice time at 27:18 per game. Offensively, however, he's not exactly the Paul Coffey of this generation. The 27-year-old from Welland, Ontario, has 15 points, which rank him 58th among defensemen. While Girardi lacks the credentials offensively, he's among the game's best defensive defensemen this season along with fellow All-Star Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins.

Much like Chara, Girardi is always matched up against the opposition's best forwards and is plus-7 despite his lack of offense. He took on added responsibility during the first half of the season while Marc Staal recovered from a concussion, anchoring a Rangers defense that ranks tied for second in the NHL. Girardi ranks fourth in the NHL with 102 blocked shots and his 115 hits rank 16th.

Even Girardi isn't sure how those skills will translate into an All-Star Game, but he's going to soak up every second of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I'm unbelievably honored," Girardi said. "Maybe every All-Star Game, a couple guys like me will sneak in there and get a chance. I lead the League in ice time. It means a little bit, I guess. It might not be the exact role for an All-Star Game, but I feel like I'm going to have a great time out there, that's for sure. I might as well savor every moment of that. It might be my last one. I'll enjoy it with the family and have a good time."

Girardi's 18-month-old son, Landon, was one of the big hits on HBO's "24/7" documentary chronicling the buildup toward the 2012 Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers. In searching for a reason for how he wound up an All-Star, Girardi offered a unique hypothesis.

"Maybe they wanted my son instead of me," he said.

Of participating in the skills competition, Girardi joked that shot-blocking should be worked into the mix: "I'll probably start with standing in front of Chara's shot. I'm really excited to see what they'll have in store for me."

Girardi said he didn't know if the All-Star Game nod will result in a contract bonus. "I'll have to go back and check the records," he joked. "I don't know what's in there, to tell you the truth."

Dan Girardi
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 15
SOG: 57 | +/-: 7
Earlier in the season, Tortorella lobbied for Girardi to make the All-Star team but said he lacked the "pedigree" of other players in the NHL. Clearly Girardi's play has opened eyes.

"He deserves it," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure how he was named, but he certainly deserved it. Something came out right."
It's possible that Tortorella could coach Girardi's team at the All-Star Game, but the pair had differing opinions on what that would mean in terms of ice time.

"I'll say Torts and he'll play me a lot hopefully," Girardi said when asked who we wanted as his coach. "He'll double shift me out there."

Hoping to rest the busiest defenseman in the NHL, Torts responded, "I probably won't play him."

Girardi's first trip to the All-Star Game along with Lundqvist and Gaborik is just the latest positive occurrence for a team that has been atop the League for most of the season.

"It's been a pretty good half of the year so far," Girardi said. "The team's doing well, nice Winter Classic, HBO went well. It's another good thing for myself and for the team to have three guys. It says something about our team. I can't get too far ahead of myself. We still have games to win before the All-Star break."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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